Republicans, Democrats, pro-abortion advocates and pro-lifers all found some common ground Tuesday when Congress passed H.R. 2772, The Rape Survivor Child Custody Act. The legislation, cosponsored by Reps. Tom Marino (R-PA) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), is an amendment to S. 178, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act. The new bill would provide protection for children conceived in rape and give more power to rape victims themselves by helping prevent sexual predators from gaining child custody.
Rep. Tom Marino’s (R-PA) office provided more details:
The mission of this legislation is simple: prohibit rapists from seeking custody of a child conceived through rape, against the protests of the rape survivor. If signed into law, the legislation would incentivize states to correct an overly complex child custody framework by revoking the parental rights’ of rapists.
The bill also protects rape survivors from further trauma, harassment, and intimidation by their rapist. That protection is vital for a mother who makes the personal decision to keep a child conceived through rape.
The representative also explained what this meant for the vulnerable victims' personal well-being:
“This legislation is crucial for rape victims and their mental wellbeing. It is also vital to the child. This bill is a clear directive to states that demand better protections for rape survivors that are not only necessary but long overdue,” said Marino.
Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, agreed with her politically polar opposite colleague and applauded the legislation.
“This bipartisan bill, which is part of the larger JVTA legislation, is an important step forward for rape survivors, who deserve commonsense protections under the law. No state should allow a rapist to use parental rights as a weapon against a survivor,” said Schultz.
H.R. 2772 passed in the Senate last month, also on a bipartisan basis, with Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) leading the charge.
There was a time when it was dubious whether or not the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act would even see the light of day. For weeks, congressmen bickered over the legislation’s pro-life language. The provision in question would enforce the Hyde Amendment, which prevents taxpayer dollars from going toward abortion. The two sides eventually managed to reach a compromise, and the concluding bill passed unanimously.
Yet, it's only the beginning.
Sadly, and shockingly, this law does not exist in almost two dozen states, National Journal reports. For the states who do enforce this legislation, one look at the fine print proves there is still a ways to go until rape victims get their due justice.
It merely gives states that pass parental-custody restrictions up to 10 percent more in Violence Against Women Act grant money. Most of that money would then go to support programs that assist women who are survivors of sex crimes.
Despite the missing pieces, H.R. 2772 is a good step forward. All congressmen who voted and supported it deserve credit for putting their differences aside and standing up for victims of rape.